Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why I stay

I was recently asked to write up something on "Why I stay". So I thought I would share it here.

At some point in my early adult life I realized a few things about life. I found out that I can overcome hardship if I don’t let it get the best of me and take action. I learned that most events in my life happen for a reason that I am unaware of until after the fact. I realized that I can live almost anywhere and find the good in each place.

In January 2004, my husband, who at the time was not looking for a new job, showed me a printout of a job description. He said, “It is located in New Orleans and sounds perfect for me. If I could get the position would you move to New Orleans?” Living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the time, I was apparently suffering from cabin fever and knowing that New Orleans was somewhere in the deep south and probably not cold that time of year I gave him a semi-perky “Sure!”. That is all the incentive he needed. Two weeks later he was on a plane down here to interview and by Mardi Gras he was working! I had never even visited New Orleans before. Having always gotten Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana mixed up when it came to geographic location in the US I didn’t even realize it was next to Texas! I remembered reading a book once that took place in Louisiana and the main character constantly complaining about the humidity. I remembered watching the movie Ya-Ya Sisterhood and the young ladies always trying to stay cool. I remembered my Grandparents visited once and came back with a cookbook with words I couldn’t even pronounce or didn’t know what they meant like roux, jambalaya, gumbo, creole, & etouffee. My husband wanted to take a trip down here once and I scrunched up my face and said, “Isn’t that the place with all the weird food?” Wasn’t interested. Needless to say, it was the last place I thought I would live.

And then it happened. I moved down here April 4, 2004. It was freezing rain the day we left Pittsburgh. We arrived at our new house in Covington and all the flowers in our front garden were blooming, the grass was green, the sky was as blue as ever, the sun was out and it was 75 degrees! Imagine my delight! That first night in town my husband took us to the now non-existent Patio Grill on Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville. There we were dining outside, listening to live music, admiring the beauty of the lake and watching the sunset. We toasted our new life in the south. I sat back, sighed and said, “This is like being on vacation.” My husband laughed and said, “And this is where you live now!” I had just stumbled across a well-kept secret.

The first year we lived here I often emailed friends and family about how much I loved it here. I often spoke of the water being in such close proximity. I even emailed pictures once of the sunset as I drove north on the causeway bridge. I felt happy to be here.

We only lived here 16 months before hurricane Katrina. We were on vacation when she hit. From our vacation spot, we went directly to Dallas where my husband’s company was temporarily relocating. We stayed 8 weeks. Our house was crushed by 3 very tall pines. I never thought that we wouldn’t return. I was just focused on what we needed to do to get back into our home. It was a rough time. It was a sad time. It was a life-changing time. It was a time to learn. Learn about ourselves, our strengths, our capabilities and what is most important to us - lessons that can only be taught in such life-changing events.

It took us a complete year to be fully rebuilt and recovered. And in that year our dog died, my husband fell off our roof and broke his arm, our main gas line broke, and my husband lost his job. The only positive was that our second child was born. Despite it all we still wanted to stay.

Why? Well, it is hard to put into words so I will give you a few examples:

I stay because I can rollerblade in February.
I stay because something is in bloom at least 9 months out of the year.
I stay because while listening to musician Emily Gray in the French Quarter she gave my 3 year old daughter a CD of her music and my daughter still talks about it till this day.
I stay because it is easy to be a big fish in a small pond.
I stay because anyone can fit in here no matter what your lifestyle, religion, interests, wealth, ethnicity, career or marital status.
I stay because my neighbors and friends in New Orleans did more for me the 3 months following the hurricane than any neighbor I had growing up ever did for me in 20 years.
I stay because the lake is only 2 miles from my house.
I stay because I can be at the beach in less than an hour.
I stay because I love crossing the causeway bridge – it is so serene and beautiful on a sunny, clear day.
I stay because being around water calms me, allows me to think clearer, revives my soul.
I stay because I’ve experienced true southern hospitality and love it!
I stay because Mardi Gras is one of the wackiest traditions I’ve come across.
I stay because I think it is funny how crazy ya’ll go over king cake!
I stay because I am learning French without taking a class.
I stay because I am learning to appreciate all that weird food.
I stay because my husband had the opportunity to start his own business here.
I stay because I can stay home with my kids and still afford to live here.
I stay because this is where I live and so far no one has given me any reason to leave.

1 comment:

Nola said...

You know, being a native, sometimes all I see is the negative if I try to think of how others see us. It is very endearing to hear from an "outsider" the things we see everyday. And surviving Katrina and returning certainly converted you to a "insider"!! Glad you found us!